The Equity Initiative welcomed 25 new EI Fellows, representing 10 countries, to the 2019 Opening Retreat, held in the Ba Vi Mountains near Hanoi, March 10-17. The main goal of the retreat is to foster Fellow bonding and create a trusted space for peer learning and development. On top of this, the event introduced leadership and equity concepts and initiated the practice of new skills, while simultaneously encouraging Fellows to explore new cultures, reflect upon personal values, and start to define a vision to guide them through the induction year.
Communication was an underlying theme of many of the Opening Retreat activities. “Convincing Communication” was a full-day public speaking workshop, designed to help Fellows develop the skills needed capture attention, persuade listeners, and build support for equity causes. A personal values session prompted Fellows to identify their core values and then share them with each other. Further training, on peer coaching and active listening, helped them become comfortable with coaching each other and solving problems together. Fellows began to put some of their new skills into practice, as each spoke on the topic of “A Day in My Life”; listening to each other describe their work, interests, and goals also began to spark ideas among Fellows on how they might collaborate on second-year group projects.
The Opening Retreat also was an opportunity for Fellows to learn more about the contexts that shape equity challenges and solutions. The “SEA + C Game” touched 2 important competency areas: 1) history, culture, and diversity and 2) the economic and political development of Southeast Asia and China. Outside of the structured learning sessions – including during a visit to the ancient village of Duong Lam – Fellows were encouraged to see their encounters with Viet Nam’s food, geography, and people as opportunities for cultural exploration.
The Equity Initiative encourages Fellows to explore new concepts, develop new skills, and, in some cases, challenge long-held assumptions about values, social justice, and health practices. As they began defining a vision for their cohort, the 2019 Fellows demonstrated the personal bonding needed for a successful year of learning, growth, and collaboration for heath equity was well underway.